Between his fixation on, or perhaps odd enjoyment of, voicing the vile phrase, “radical Islamic terrorism,” and following through on a campaign promise to temporarily ban Muslims from select countries entering the U.S., President Donald J. Trump has fallen directly into the hands of the Jihadist playbook.
He joins the ranks of far too many right wingers and neocons in high places with an outdated view of American power and how to wield it, and who not only never figured out what “winning hearts and minds” or “moral high ground” ever meant, but also never even cared. They don’t understand, using just one example, that some roots behind the radicalization of young Muslim men revolve around economic scarcity and desperation, and therefore the willingness to take a job or accept security for one’s family at great cost from anyone with the means to give it. Instead, they hide behind misappropriations of not only Islamic scripture, but also ignorance of their own Christian text, voicing braindead, oversimplified conclusions like, “they hate us for our freedom,” or, in angry-man General Michael Flynn’s case, “Islam hates us” and Islam “is a malignant cancer.” Sadly, it would appear the only remaining Americans left who appreciate “nuance” are the left, the Democrats, … and of course, Paul Reiser (if he isn’t already a member of either).
So, like many other far more qualified and well-known people, I will try to explain – not to Mr. Trump – who isn’t listening, nor to bloviating fascists like Flynn and Steve Bannon, but to perhaps some persuadable Americans remaining out there – why they shouldn’t be tempted by today’s, yesterday’s, or tomorrow’s right-wing broken record.
To that end, I present four humble suggestions:
Listen to Experts, not Ideologues with Radical Agendas.
With regard to use of “Jihadists” vs. “radical Islamic terror,” just listen to what Emile Nakhleh, a former senior intelligence officer, wrote on Vox.com last year:
“When I directed the Political Islam Analysis Program at the CIA in the early 2000s, I frequently interacted with senior Bush administration policymakers about how to engage Muslim communities and, when doing so, which words and phrases to use to best describe the radical ideology preached by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Always, the aim was to distinguish between radicals and extremists and the vast majority of mainstream Muslims, and to make sure the latter understood that we were not lumping them in with the former.… like the Obama administration, the Bush administration correctly judged that the term “radical Islam” was divisive and adversarial, and would alienate the very people we wanted to communicate with.”
Those once of the Islamic faith who have since turned to terrorism, first of all, are no longer practicing Muslims. In fact, having turned away from their religion of peace, these terrorists and their complicit associates can no more claim to be Muslims than a member of the Ku Klux Klan can claim to be a practicing Christian. I’m confident that the VAST majority of Americans with some education and a sense of basic right-and-wrong could at least make sense of this conclusion. Hell, the village idiot may even stumble into realizing we can’t therefore combine the terms “Islamic” and “terrorist.”
But not Donald Trump.
Instead, Trump is taking would be mainstream Muslims, whose feelings toward the U.S. are otherwise on the fence, or who are just trying to live their lives, and practically giving them the “bring it on” speech. Do Mr. Trump and his militant propagandists think it wise to bully and insult, in particular, the huge pockets that exist of young, unemployed Muslims throughout North Africa and South Asia? … I’ll give you a minute to think about your answer.
Stick to American Values, and Learn from History
As for banning the entry or re-entry of Muslims into the United States from seven specific Muslim nations? (never mind the fact that terrorism has been proven homegrown from two countries NOT on the list?)
One might wonder how the aftermath of this policy will be judged compared to the infantilizing of Native Americans through The Dawes Act, the years of “Irish Need not Apply,” or the national shame of interning into prison camps loyal Japanese Americans during the Second World War? This administration, following the sage, winning ways of their favorite low-energy loser JEB Bush, has even suggested allowing in CHRISTIAN refugees from Syria at a cost to others, removing all credibility (and constitutionality) that this travel ban isn’t so much a country-specific ban as it is a Muslim one.
Do you honestly think Trump and friends’ insult to peace-loving Muslims looking to flee the horrors of the Syrian Civil War and Iraq War is going to DE-radicalize any frustrated Muslims that must now remain behind? … or can’t you at least admit that you could see his ego-fueled posturing only emboldening them further, and faster, to find an illicit way into our country and do harm? And what of the young, lonely Muslim widow, wife of a fallen translator for U.S. troops, who has already made it here and has become a U.S. Citizen? Is she now proud as ever to profess her love for the United States, a country to which she thought she and her family had already proven themselves?
General Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA Director said of the Travel Ban on a Monday, January 30 broadcast of NPR’s “Morning Edition:”
“It’s a horrible move. It is a political, ideological move driven by the language of the campaign and, frankly, campaign promises – promises in the campaign that were hyped by an exaggeration of the threat. And in fact, what we’re doing now has probably made us less safe today than we were Friday morning before this happened because we are now living the worst jihadist narrative possible, that there is undying enmity between Islam and the West.
Muslims out there who were not part of the jihadist movement are now being shown that the story they’re being told by the jihadists – they hate us; they’re our enemy – that’s being acted out by the American government. And frankly …at a humanitarian level, it’s an abomination.”
Don’t buy into the false narrative of “American Carnage”
If you believe, say, the average white, 50-year-old conservative American man, you might be convinced that a 9-11 scale terrorist attack was a quarterly occurrence under Barak Obama. And taking nothing from the victims or their families in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, but proportion-minded, reasonable thinkers can certainly admit the gulf of difference between those hard to stop terrorist attacks and the horrendous evil that – despite warning – ravaged New York, the Pentagon, and would have an unknown third location on 9-11-2001.
A reasonable person not eagerly seeking refuge behind a Fox News narrative of American security already understands that for every one of those more recent terror events, there have been hundreds of homegrown mass shootings by non-Muslims in the U.S. Or, using less political statistics, that we’re more likely to be harmed every time we go behind the wheel of our own car than we are to come close to being anywhere near a terror event in our lifetime.
Invest in Neutralizing Hearts and Minds
I’m not sure that after more than a dozen years of war and invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq, just how many hearts and minds America can “win” in North Africa or Southern Asia. But we do know that lack of investment in economic development benefitting the people of those regions comes at a staggering cost.
Susan Rice, now former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., has written extensively about the importance of economic investment and development in curbing poverty before desperate regions of the world turn dangerous. In a 2006 piece titled, “The Threat of Global Poverty,” Rice argues that poverty:
“creates conditions conducive to transnational criminal enterprises and terrorist activity, not only by making desperate individuals potentially more susceptible to recruitment, but also, and more significantly, by undermining the state’s ability to prevent and counter those violent threats. Poverty can also give rise to the tensions that erupt in civil conflict, which further taxes the state and allows transnational predators greater freedom of action.”
Do you hear Mr. Trump talking about his tremendous (folks, believe me), absolutely fantastic (folks) plans for major direct investment in the people of the middle east? You know – in their education, infrastructure, and job outlook? Of course not. To him, they are merely – sorry, “Bad Hombres” – a bunch of “Mean Muhammads.”
And so now, just eight years removed from what we thought was one unthinkable diplomatic disaster after another under Bush/Cheney, America’s safety, reputation, and moral standing around the world rests in the hands of a bunch of half-cocked, uber-macho, right-wing ideologues, conspiracy theorists, and fascist propagandists the likes of which America has never seen. Men (yes, Men) who probably consider John Wayne too soft and have no real understanding of how to truly keep America safe. If they continue to use careless, hurtful language or discriminating, hateful policies that turn reasonable, moderate Muslims both outside and already inside the U.S. against us and the West … your safety, my friends, is not guaranteed. God protect us all.